Lăng Cô Town, Hue, Vietnam: History-making Suzuka Yamaguchi is setting her sights on another shot at glory in the 12th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final.
Still on a high after becoming the first Japanese winner of the Australian Women’s Amateur Championship less than two months ago, the teenage golfing prodigy is among the pre-tournament favourites this week at Laguna Lăng Cô.
Following what was described as an ‘awe-inspiring performance’ at Lake Karrinyup Country Club, Yamaguchi’s confidence was further fuelled when she won The Avondale Amateur in Australia in the last week of January after which she had the distinction of being one of only two amateurs to make the half-way cut in the LPGA Tour’s ISPS Handa Australian Women’s Open.
After finishing in a tie for 11th at last week’s inaugural Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Championship at Singapore’s Sentosa Golf Club, Yamaguchi’s attentions are now firmly focused on adding the Faldo Series Asia Grand Final title to her impressive list of successes.
On the back of her outstanding recent run of form, Yamaguchi, who turned 17 on February 8, has soared into the top-100 in The R&A’s World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) for the first time.
“I was very proud and very happy to win the Australian Amateur,” said Yamaguchi, who first sprang to prominence in 2015 when she qualified for the US Women’s Open as a precocious 14-year-old.
Since then her star has continued to rise, evidenced by appearances in six Japan LPGA Tour events last year as well as making her LPGA Tour debut in the Lotte Championship presented by Hershey in Hawaii, won by Cristie Kerr.
The catalyst for her tremendous start to 2018 can be traced back to mid-November when she survived a last-day scare to emerge triumphant in the Faldo Series Japan Championship at Shizu Hills Country Club.
Six strokes clear of the field after 36 holes, Yamaguchi was expected to enjoy a final-round stroll in the eighth leg of the 2017-18 Faldo Series Asia season. However, it did not turn out that way with Yamaguchi eventually prevailing by the slimmest of margins after a gutsy display over the closing stretch that saw her complete the last six holes in two-under.
Yamaguchi feels she has a point to prove in Vietnam after under-performing in the 10th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final at China’s Mission Hills in 2016 when she was joint seventh among the girls.
“I was not satisfied with that performance,” said Yamaguchi. “That’s why I wanted to win the Faldo Series Japan Championship so that I can go to the Grand Final again.”
Six-time Major champion and tournament founder Sir Nick Faldo, who is hosting the Asia Grand Final at the course he sculpted in Central Vietnam, said: “It’s been a spectacular couple of months for Suzuka and I look forward to seeing her spearhead the Japanese challenge for honours at Laguna Lăng Cô.”
The 2017-18 Faldo Series Asia season is supported by The R&A and endorsed by the Asian Tour and the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation. The International Junior Golf Academy is a partner of the Faldo Series.
As well as two events in China and Thailand, championships have been staged in Australia, Bangladesh, Chinese-Taipei, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.